If you’re thinking of an alternative to traditional school and you’ve started researching homeschooling methods, chances are you are weighing up several options. These may include unschooling as well as Charlotte Mason vs Maria Montessori.
Why Consider Charlotte Mason vs Maria Montessori?
These women have left incredible imprints in the homeschooling community as well as private schools. However, it can be overwhelming when trying to decide if their styles are right for you.
While there are many types of curriculum and homeschooling styles available for parents home educating their children, these are two of the most commonly used options. Both the Charlotte Mason method and Montessori education have several advantages to offer.
Charlotte Mason vs Maria Montessori: How To Choose
Before you decide on the type of style and curriculum you would like to use, it’s best to know of the similarities and differences between the different methods. Having used elements of each of these styles for my own children I will outline the premise of each, and conclude with the main differences, pros and cons.
Charlotte Mason vs Maria Montessori
Who was Charlotte Mason?
Charlotte Mason was a British educator and reformer at the turn of the twentieth century. Her educational philosophy was based on the idea that education was more than simply learning to pass a test or for employment. It was about developing the whole person, not just the academic brain.
What is the Charlotte Mason approach?
This is a popular homeschooling style and for good reason. A Charlotte Mason education has a 3 pronged approach, the thirds of which are: ‘Atmosphere’, ‘Discipline’, ‘Life’ (explained in a moment). This approach is suitable from early education and elementary years, through middle school and all the way through to the child’s last year of school.
Charlotte Mason lessons are short (10-20 minutes) and may involve studying a piece of fine art, reading aloud from a great book, going for a nature walk or exploring a historical era, dancing or doing some mathematics. The aim is to structure the lesson and develop a love of learning so that the child gives their best effort and full attention.
In the three-pronged approach that I mentioned earlier, the ‘atmosphere’ is the environment in which the individual child will grow up, including the beliefs of the parent. Ms. Mason believed that parents are children’s first teachers and that as parents, our ideas make up a significant part of the education we pass down to our child. They become part of his thoughts and character.
The ‘discipline’ part of this philosophy of education is about habit forming. Mason believed that the best way for a child to grow up was with good habits (especially those of character).
These act as ‘rails’ for the child to have a smooth ride throughout life, without unnecessary bumps along the way. An example of a valued habit would be that of the child giving their best effort to their work (this is why there is an emphasis on quality over quantity).
The two parts to habit forming are motivation and repetition. This is something that parents in a classical homeschooling household will use to help their child develop healthy behavior patterns.
The ‘life’ part of this classical education is about the child’s academic education. Charlotte believed that children should not be taught dry facts, but should be exposed to ideas and thoughts that they then explore in their own way.
Mason believed you didn’t need to spend much time on a lesson; short lessons of just 10-20 minutes were recommended. This is perfect for younger children, or even older children who struggle to concentrate for long periods of time.
There is an emphasis on ‘living books’ (well-written books written by a passionate author and without dumbing subjects down). There is also a focus on children presenting back in different ways what they have learned as an individual from these great books.
Charlotte Mason also believed that nature was an essential tool for educating young children. Field trips to natural environments and at least weekly nature studies are an integral part of this home education, from the early years well as well as for high school students to develop the personhood of the child.
The ‘Pros’ of the Charlotte Mason Approach
Some people prefer the Charlotte Mason style (a classical method) because there do not necessarily need to be hard lines drawn between one subject and the next. A nature walk may encompass biology, geography, literacy, history and PE, for example.
Everything intertwines to create an ongoing learning opportunity for children to discover new and exciting things in different subjects, including math and literature.
In addition, each lesson is short and straightforward, which some parents prefer because they believe in the importance of focus and conciseness when teaching a child something. If you want a style that encourages children to push themselves while enjoying the learning experience, Charlotte Mason is worth considering.
The ‘Cons’ of the Charlotte Mason Approach
There are of course some aspects that parents may consider ‘downsides’ to Charlotte Mason (the lessons are parent-led, there can be pressure to know what constitutes a ‘living book’, and high quality books can be expensive if not found in a library). However, the shorter lessons could be exactly what your children need to get the concept of different subjects while gaining valuable knowledge and skills to build their education.
Charlotte Mason Homeschool Curriculum
There are several Charlotte Mason themed homeschool curricula currently available. Discover these Charlotte Mason materials to get a feel for the overall teaching and learning style of this method:
Who was Maria Montessori?
Dr. Montessori was an Italian educator, scientist and physician at the turn of the twentieth century. She was invited to open a public school (really more of a daycare centre) for children in one of the poorest areas of Rome.
This was named the Casa dei Bambini. She observed how these children, although unruly initially, settled down and became able to concentrate and focus on different things for long periods of time.
This was primarily through hands-on learning experiences and practical lessons such as cooking and cleaning. These children became known as the ‘miracle children’ because they had not been expected to be able to learn, and Montessori quickly opened more centres around Italy.
What is the Montessori Method?
While the shorter lessons are an advantage offered by the Charlotte Mason approach, learning independently is one of the primary advantages of the Maria Montessori style, which unlike Mason’s is child-led.
The Montessori method is based on principles including “freedom of movement and choice”, “intrinsic motivation” and “auto education” (self teaching). In a typical Montessori classroom or homeschool room there will be specific resources set out in a way that ensures the child can reach and put away them by themselves.
Lessons are often based on practical skills such as self-care. The characteristics of a lesson are “conciseness”, “simplicity” and “objectivity”. Children are not encouraged to apply themselves to a lesson (unlike in the Mason approach) as Montessori believed this creates an inauthentic learning experience and is not compatible with child-led learning.
When you choose Montessori schools or this home education approach as opposed to traditional homeschooling, you’re giving your child an opportunity to practise making choices and therefore learn through intrinsic motivation.
Giving them a set of options from the Montessori compatible resources allows them to explore at a pace they feel comfortable with. Children can select their own activity to do in their own workspace, and must also put it away properly once they are finished.
There is a built in ‘control of error’ within many Montessori resources. This means that while using them, it is obvious to children if they have made a mistake or not.
For example, with towers that need to be stacked biggest-to-smallest, it is clear which blocks are supposed to go where so children can self-correct. Montessori believed certain types or amounts criticism could lead to a lack of self-esteem, which is why self-correction is important.
The amount of time for an ‘uninterrupted work cycle’ (period of time when Montessori children are engaging in activities) is around 3 hours long. This can be broken down into lessons of up to 30 minutes, which should be one on one or in small groups.
Both in specific lessons and in times of free choice, children should go at their own pace and the focus is on child-led independent learning.
Students who follow the Montessori curriculum tend to find subjects they’re passionate about and excel within them. It allows you to honor your children and all the things that matter most to them while giving them more of a say, which is something they typically wouldn’t have in a traditional schooling environment.
If you do a Google search for “Montessori curriculum,” you will not yield the same results as Charlotte Mason, or any other homeschooling method/style. The reason for that is because the Montessori method doesn’t focus so much on the physical curriculum aspect versus how a child learns.
Therefore, it should be understood that the Montessori method places more emphasis on practical life activities. Montessori suggests using everyday materials that are easily accessible to the child and providing them with a choice of activities to choose from. A few examples would be:
- Clamping clothespins
- Playing with dry and wet sand
- Threading and/or lacing
- Using tools such as a hammer and screwdriver
- Sweeping a floor (and other chore-related activities)
These are just a few examples; however, they paint a pretty good picture of how this method works. This method seems most ideal for younger students, but it can actually work all throughout elementary, middle, and high school grades.
As a child gets older, they simply begin incorporating projects, research, and discussion to help produce independent thinkers.
Charlotte Mason vs Maria Montessori: Main Differences
The main differences between Charlotte Mason vs Maria Montessori are the following:
- Montessori is child led, Mason is parent-led.
- Mason is easily integrated into a religious household, Montessori is generally secular.
- Montessori resources are more expensive than the living books that Mason requires.
- Montessori has more of a focus on practical life skills; Mason focuses more on the arts.
- Mason’s lessons are shorter, Mont
The approach you select will depend on several factors. Take these into consideration before making any purchases so you can save time and money:
- Whether you prefer a child-led or parent-led style
- Your budget
- How much time you’d like to dedicate to individual lessons
- What your child is naturally interested in
Consider Mason & Montessori Homeschool Lesson Types
The next thing to consider are the types of lessons that will be used to teach your style. Different curricula are set up that cater to different learning styles. Whether it’s shorter lessons that leap into one another or self-paced learning, know what you prefer to have and what you feel will benefit your children the most.
You may wish to consider unschooling (see what my children learned with no formal lessons in a typical unschooling day). This way you can use elements of both approaches without committing to or excluding one.
Be familiar with your child’s learning style.
One of the biggest misconceptions in homeschooling is that all curriculum should work for all children. That’s simply not true. It is important to understand your child’s learning style so you can choose a homeschooling style like Charlotte Mason or Maria Montessori and also choose a curriculum that will help your child thrive. Do look at my other home education blog posts for more info and support for educating your child at home.
Final Thoughts on Charlotte Mason vs Maria Montessori
Now that you’ve learned a bit more about these two popular curriculums used by homeschooling parents across the country, you can decide if either option sounds like it would work well for you and your family.
No matter the type of curriculum selected, you can expect your children to learn incredible new things. The difference homeschooling with the right curriculum can make in the lives of your children is tremendous.
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